Performance: The 9800 provides a noticeable improvement over the 9700 in standard situations. But, when you turn on AA and AF, the 9800 really spreads it wings and distances itself from the 9700, showing us just how much fine tuning ATI has done to the R300 core.
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Price: At $400, this card offers the best performance money can buy and more performance than the GFFX 5800U, which is priced the same. Moreover, this release is going to drive down the prices on the cards currently available, making the 9700 a mainstream card.
Availability: Barring any unforseen delays, we can expect to see this card on shelves during this month and the 9800 w/256MB of DDR2 next month. This is great news for anyone looking to upgrade their video card to the latest and greatest.
Optimizations: Along with the boost in speed, ATI has made some improvements to their algorithms (Smartshader, Smoothvision, etc.), which provide the performance boost that we're seeing. Moreover, they've extended the DX9 functionality (DX9++, obviously aimed at NVIDIA)of the card by introducing F-Buffer, which allows for unlimited instructions.
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ATI has done it again with the 9800 Pro. They took their already amazing R300 core and made it better, offering a significant boost in performance over the 9700. Alongside the 9800, we have the 9600 and 9200, which are meant to increase performance in the mainstream and value segments of the market. Make no mistake about it, the 9800 is the best card money can buy right now and it would appear that ATI's got the entire market covered with a diverse range of products.
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However, you can be sure that NVIDIA isn't sitting back watching, as the FX 5600 and 5200 were recently launched and are aimed squarely at the 9600 and 9200. And then there's NV35, which is supposedly up and running and is slated for May. Be that as it may, ATI holds the performance crown once again, and looks to do so until NVIDIA can provide an answer. 2003 is definitely the year to be looking for a graphics card.